Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Planning Your Trip To China

It’s vacation time! You’ve been waiting for this moment for an entire year. You’ve saved up your vacation time for the perfect season and now you are sitting down at your kitchen table eating dinner reminiscing about where you wish to travel. Last year, your adventure brought you to the Old West and you saw Yellowstone and the Rockies. The year before that, you tested your resilience and traveled to Europe to tour parts of Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Moreover, you wish to do something outside of your comfort zone and you wish to go somewhere that is exotic and full of culture. Before you know it, you come across a small ad on your computer advertising cheap flights to Asia. Intrigued, you click the ad and see what the advertiser has to offer. You see the usual, deals to fly to Tokyo, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea, for dirt cheap and an offer to bundle your purchase with a complimentary hotel stay and a ride to and from the airport.

This sounds great, but it not what you are looking for. Further down the list of reduced prices in flights, you come across a less known place—China. “Non-stop flight from Chicago to Beijing, only $699!” or “The Cheapest Flights to Shanghai, only available today!” Interested, you click to find out more and the advertiser sends you to another website that offers tours. Tours in China are cheaper ways to travel the country and you’ll learn a lot more about the tourist sites with a tour guide. Just be aware that some tour companies are not legit. Do your research before you give a company your hard-earned money.

You’ve made your decision! China it is. Now, all you must do is pack and enjoy your trip, right? Wrong!

Any seasoned traveler knows that there is a boatload that goes into preparing, enjoying, and returning from a trip. Here are 12 helpful tips for planning your trip to China.

The Three Parts

First, you need to understand that there are three parts to preparing for any trip. This includes the initial or beginning process, the traveling process, and arriving at your destination.

The Beginning Process

The initial or beginning process is separated into five parts that include (1) applying for your passport, (2) paying for your plane ticket, (3) applying for a visa, (4) finding travel and medical insurance, and (5) registering at the embassy or sending in a confirmation of your trip to the embassy.

1: Passport

I always wore my passport around my neck.
Your passport is going to be the most important part of the beginning process. In any foreign country, keep your passport on you. If you get into trouble while in a foreign country or get hurt, you’ll need your passport. Your passport tells officials where you are from and information on how to contact your family if something did happen to you when abroad. Leaving and arriving at the airport, especially in China, will require you to show your passport to several police officers, security personnel, airport security, and sometimes the staff on the plane.

The process for applying for your passport in the United States can take some time. My passport only took six weeks to be processed, but I got my passport seven months in advance before I left the country. Some countries require applicants to have their passport processed six months in advance before arriving in the country. Do your research to make sure you are meeting the criteria to enter the country you wish to travel to. Though, China doesn’t have a rule like this.

You can apply for your passport at your local post office. Everything is taken care of there including your photo. The passport will cost around $150 (USD).

2: Plane Ticket

The next step is to purchase your plane tickets. I went through Travelocity and bought my tickets on a Tuesday when the prices seemed to be lower. Travelocity offered complimentary taxi service and a bundle package including the hotel stay for the duration of my trip. This is an option for you if you wish to save some money, but there are limitations on which hotels you can stay at and what taxi services you can use. These bundle packages are when companies collaborate with each other to get you to use their services. There may be cheaper options available.

Make sure you save your confirmation number and email you get from whatever service you use to purchase your plane ticket. You’ll need this for the next step.

3: Visa

This step is going to be the one that takes the longest and maybe the hardest. You need to apply for a Chinese Visa before entering China. This may seem easy, but there are over 10 types of visas you can apply for.

To help me determine what type of visa I needed for staying in China for over a month, I utilized a company called Travisa. The closest location to me was the office in Chicago. After several phone calls and filling out three separate visa applications, I finally sent in a Non-Business Visa Application.

In return, I was awarded an L Tourist Visa that allows me to stay in the country for 60 days at a time, then I would leave for 30 days and then would be allowed to return for another 60 days.

There are four sections to the Chinese Visa Application through Travisa:

(1)   Document Preparation Service paperwork
(2)   Visa Application Form
(3)   Embassy Registration Form
(4)   Visa Order Application

You will be required to send these pieces of information with your visa application:

(1)   Letter of Invitation (only if you are not coming as a tourist)
(2)   Passport / Personal Data and Emergency Contact Page
(3)   Verification of Airline and Ticket Confirmation
(4)   Hotel Information
(5)   Photo of Yourself (very strict requirements)
(6)   Proof of Residency
(7)   Proof that You Can Afford the Trip (not always required)

My visa cost me nearly $500 because I signed up for several extra services to make sure I was protected while in China. Read all the fine print when filling out the visa application, otherwise, you may find yourself with an unexpected bill.

4: Travel & Medical Insurance

I would suggest getting travel and medical insurance before arriving in China. Though medical services are significantly less in China, it is always a good idea to be prepared for the worst. Travel insurance is also a must. I was lucky because I had travel insurance as my luggage on the way home exploded and all my things came out before my suitcase at the O’Hare airport in Chicago and I got a brand-new suitcase without being charged.

I went through the World Nomads because the service offered unbeatable prices and bundled travel and medical insurance together. I couldn’t find any other service that offered everything World Nomads did for the price.

5: Embassy

Though this step is optional, I suggest registering at the embassy in your country or when filling out your visa application, paying for the additional service of having the embassy know where you are when you are in China.

The Traveling Process

The traveling process is separated into five sections including (1) duration of travel, (2) dealing with layovers, (3) the food, (4) your safety, and (5) how to pass your time. Planning the traveling process may help you deal with some of the uncomfortable parts of travel.

1: Travel Time

If you are coming from the continental United States, the travel time getting to China may take 12 to over 24 hours depending on if you have a straight shot to your destination or several layovers. It took me over 24 hours to get to China from Chicago and just over 16 hours to return.

I suggest you plan how you will spend this time. Are you going to be flying first-class? Business? Economy? Depending on your budget, your traveling experience may be comfortable or the most irritating process.

I was in economy class or what I like to call “cattle class”. I’m a small person and those seats were a tight fit. Plan for occurrence and difficulties like this so you can try to make this part of traveling less of a hassle.

2: Layovers

Layover in Seattle, Washington
If you so happen to be like me who had a layover, you’ll know the meaning of bored. I had an 8 ½ hour layover in the Seattle/Tacoma International Airport. Not only had I been awake since 3:30 AM, but I now had to keep myself occupied for 8 ½ hours. Two hours was committed to finding the next terminal. After this, I was left to my own devices.

I suggest that you bring something along that can keep you occupied. I had a book, my computer, several card games, and a friend to help pass the time. My friend and I also took the time to see what the Seattle/Tacoma International Airport had to offer. Research what is around the area you have a layover in and see if it would be worth your time to spend some extra money on traveling around the area.

3: Food

What are you going to eat when you are traveling? Will you eat at the airport? Will you depend on the airline's meals? Prepare yourself for some of the best and worst food when on an airplane. Most of the meals and snacks I had was amazing, but the few that weren’t had me visiting the bathroom more than I appreciated. Bring along stomach acid reducer medication in case your stomach gets upset and bring some of your own snacks (if allowed).

4: Safety

Getting through airport security… it’s something I’ve learned to love because it protects me and hate because of the rules, restrictions, and process. Look up what is allowed in your carry-on luggage and checked luggage before you pack. Many airlines allow a personal carry-on besides the one that goes in the overhead compartment in the plane. Fill essentials like medication and a few sets of clothes in the carry-on just in case your checked luggage gets lost or delayed.

5: Passing the Time on the Plane

You now have 12 hours before you land in mainland China. What are you going to do? Are you going to try to sleep? Watch TV? Maybe read a book? Before you make this decision, understand that the different classes of seats may need to be researched if you wish to do certain activities like sleeping and having room to stretch. Sleeping in economy class or cattle class may be nearly impossible.

Arriving at Your Destination

You’ve made it to your destination! Congratulations! You’ve survived the plane ride, airport security, the layovers, and the food. Now, you have two main things to be aware of including (1) the time change and (2) how you will communicate.

1: The Time Change

This will be hard. I’m not going to lie by saying I didn’t struggle with the 13-hour time difference. Even with being a night owl, I found switching my day and night excessively hard. To help with this, start preparing yourself by staying up later at night and waking up later in the morning. You’ll deal with the time change significantly better if you start training your body for the change gradually.

2: Communication

You are now planning on how you will communicate in China. Chinese is the national language, but the south has many civilians who speak Cantonese. Research the location you are visiting to see what the most common language is. Hong Kong and Shanghai have many people who speak English and you may not need to have a translator if you travel to these places.

Take Home Notes

These are 12 helpful tips for planning your trip to China. The three processes, (1) the initial or beginning process, (2) the traveling process, and (3) arriving at your destination process are useful for you so you can enjoy the “before the real trip” happens.


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Monday, August 27, 2018

Living In China With Health Issues

U.S. Army photo by Reese Brown
Imagine a world where if someone got injured, broke a bone or got a concussion, that going to the doctor wouldn’t cause more stress. Imagine a world, where a surgery and overnight hospital stay didn’t mean thousands of dollars and countless months of headaches fighting the insurance company and finding the money to pay the bill.

In the United States, it can cost over $100 to see a doctor. This is only seeing the doctor, not getting referrals or working towards a cure. Sometimes, especially for low-income families, the resources for medical care is close to non-existent.

In some free and reduced clinics, there is a limited amount of time a patient can be seen by a doctor. This doesn’t seem so bad until the time limit is confirmed to be fifteen minutes. By the time a patient sits down and goes through the basics, blood pressure readings and answering common questions, the patient’s fifteen minutes are up.  

Going to a specialist is nothing to be excited about as the cost of these types of doctors’ limits who can see them. Unless someone has great medical insurance or has free medical insurance, these types of doctors are out-of-reach to many Americans. And those who choose to go to specialists without adequate medical insurance may spend the next few years trying to pay off the bill.

There is no guarantee that after spending hundreds, possibly even thousands, of dollars that a medical condition will be diagnosed or cured. Being sick is expensive, at least this is the reality in the United States and numerous first-world countries. Some countries don’t bill a patient until the patient is cured. Just imagine how different the medical system would be in the United States if this was the case.

Being Sick in China

It just so happened that I got sick when I was in China. It didn’t start until about two weeks into my adventure. I thought I was having issues with my allergies, but I quickly learned that I was dealing with something a bit more serious but common.
Smog in Beijing, China

I was in Beijing at a time where some of the worst conditions for air pollution were prevalent. I have asthma, and breathing was extremely difficult when the air was so thick that I couldn’t see across the road. Luckily, these conditions weren’t a constant thing. Yet, the air always seemed to be thicker than what I was used to.

On the second week, I started to sneeze. This usually means I’m getting a cold and I thought to buy cold medicine would solve my problem. After three days of Dayquil, I still was sneezing, and my throat was starting to clog.

Meeting up with Katie and Kaylee, two other World Explorers through the non-profit CHI, I started to notice that the nasty stuff in my nose was draining in my throat. There were times that I felt unable to breathe. And as nervous as I was, I didn’t want to cough in the subway with so many people around.

I alleviated this problem by bringing a water bottle with me to help clear my throat. Yet, the sneezing, draining, and horrible feeling continued for close to a week-in-a-half.

My host dad explained that what was happening to me was normal. Every year, around the time I was there (May to June), my host dad and host sister would start sneezing and coughing up phlegm. This was because of the air pollution. The air is so thick that some people cough up black or discolored mucus in the early summer. I had nothing worry about and going to the doctor wasn’t going to change what was happening or make it go away faster.

I was advised to drink hot green tea every morning and at supper. The heat from the tea was supposed to help wash away the phlegm in my throat and help clear my nasal passages. I don’t know if this worked, but I did start feeling better and I continued to drink green tea even after I returned home.

Going to the Doctor in Beijing, China

I was one of the unlucky souls who had to go to the hospital when I was in Beijing. I love the subway system in Beijing, but sometimes, especially at rush hour, people will squeeze themselves into the smallest of areas and push and shove when there is no room.
Subway Line 7

I was unlucky enough to be in a situation like this about three weeks into my stay. Coming home on the subway on Line 1, I was squished in the back of the subway car with no room to breathe. Nearing my stop, Wukesong Station, I got myself ready to get off by sneaking through the crowd and standing by the doors. To stop myself from being pushed off at a wrong station, I put my right foot in-between a handrail and the seat.

This was a mistake. One station before my stop, I was basically trampled by people and while people were exiting the subway car, I was being pushed out the door with my right foot stuck in-between the handrail. My right leg cracked (not broken) and my right ankle twisted in a way that made me cry out in pain. I thought, after everyone who got off, that I might have broken my ankle. I stayed quiet, though, even with some elderly couples looking at me with concern.

The next station was Wukesong and I limped off the subway car and started my journey of walking up two floors of stairs. At first, everything was fine. My right ankle hurt, but I was able to walk. That was until I reached the street and started walking towards the intersection, a quarter of a mile down the road.

It took me twice as long to walk home and wearing flip-flops was making the journey nearly impossible. I refused to lift my right leg and foot when I was walking. I dragged my leg all the way home while trying not to look like a wounded puppy.

I was brought to a nearby clinic. The only thing the doctor could do was ice my ankle. I didn’t break anything, I just was going to have a bruise for some time.

I left the clinic with only being charged $12. This included the pain medication the doctor gave me. I was at the clinic for two hours.

Requirements

I was required to have medical insurance when I signed up through CHI. Even with visiting a clinic, I didn’t need insurance because the cost of the visit was inexpensive. This is a common thing in China. Youtubers, C-Milk (Laowhy86) and Winston (SerpentZA), explain some of their experiences with medical insurance in China. And by medical insurance, I mean no one has it because it isn’t needed.

Medical expenses in China are affordable for virtually everyone. C-Milk had gotten into a motorcycle accident and was rushed off to the hospital, given a cast for his leg, and stayed overnight in the hospital. He was charged less than $200 (USD). Something like this would’ve cost over $1,000 in the United States and probably even more than that because overnight stays can be over a $1,000 a night depending on the hospital.

Take Home Notes

I would still suggest that someone who is new to China to get medical insurance. This is more to protect yourself so that if something did happen, you would have a safety net to back you up if the costs were high.

Taking precautionary steps to guarantee your safety is the most important task you can do for yourself when traveling abroad. I will still pay for medical insurance when I return to China next summer, even though I will most likely not need it. As I start to travel more and learn the culture better, I will stop needing such a safety net because I’ll understand the traditions and how things like medical issues are taken care of in China.



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Friday, August 24, 2018

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Travel To China

There are many reasons people decide to travel. Some people like to stay within their home country and to see what another region has to offer. Other people travel for leisure. They enjoy the time spent away from work and soaking up the much-needed vitamin D. Sometimes, people get to travel for work and can separate their time away from home with some sight-seeing and meeting the locals.
Beijng, China

I’m taking a diversity class this semester and I’ve already learned that some people in my class aren’t going to like what other people have to say about certain topics. I’m an American, born and raised in Nowhere, Wisconsin. My upbringing was simple and normal. Most German Americans in Nowhere, Wisconsin, grew up like me in the countryside, hidden away by miles of cornfields and rolling meadows of flowers.

Yet, I’m different from my family. Most of my family hasn’t left the country nor do they wish to. My great uncle has only left the county twice in his life and one time he was only over the border by ten miles. My German American family is set in their roots and grew up as farmers. Nothing mattered besides farming and farming was the main source of income. This isn’t what the situation is today. No one farms in my family, not anymore. My dad grew up milking cows all the way through high school, but shortly after the farm went broke.

I grew up around cattle, chickens, sheep, and a goat named Billy. (He hated me, and I hated him!) For the last four years, we’ve only had a handful of chickens on the farm. Things have changed since I was little and as I’m learning in my diversity class, times will continue to change and the people who can adjust to the changing times will be the ones who find the most pleasure out of life.


There are many things, as an American, I grew up hearing and was told about minorities. The Hmong society in my community was virtually an unknown to me until recently. I actively went out to speak to the Hmong community because I was interested in the similarities and differences between my culture, their culture, and the Chinese culture.

And therefore, this article is being written. People travel to foreign countries for many reasons. I traveled to China because I love the Asian culture and I wanted to learn more. You may travel to China for a completely different reason. I’m here to tell you five reasons why you shouldn’t travel to China. If you fit into any of these ten reasons, you may want to readvise your understanding of the Chinese culture because the cultural shock will not be the only thing that could cause you to feel uncomfortable.

Number 1: Can You Deal With Culture Shock?

I feel like this is the most common issue people have when traveling to another country, especially if they plan on living or staying in the country for an extended period of time.

I suffered from culture shock for about a week-in-a-half. I’ve mentioned it before in other blog posts of how I was so scared and uncomfortable that I wouldn’t leave the apartment complex or my room without someone.

China is different. Without listing the differences, I can say that the Chinese culture is not run like a democracy. People don’t have the freedom of religion or the right to protest the government and even though people occasionally protest on the streets, the risks of imprisonment or death are a real concern.

As an expat or foreigner, you may be treated better than the average Chinese citizen. The Chinese government wants people to come to China, it helps their economy.

If you decide to travel outside the norm by not touring the country through state-run tour groups, you may find yourself feeling lost. This is normal, and it will pass. I suggest you take the time to interact with the locals around where you are staying. There are security personnel and police officers on every street corner that can help you if you are lost. 

Number 2: Do You Speak Chinese?

I wish I would have known about this before I left for China. I would’ve started practicing some basic Chinese like the numbers and greetings six months to a year before.

As a college student, I have limited time for extracurricular activities. I left three days after the semester ended and four days after I finished four finals. My brain was fried. I barely had enough time to pack before I was sitting in a plane for sixteen plus hours.

Less than one and every one-hundred Chinese people can speak English and the ones who can speak English may only know how to ask you four questions: your age, country of origin, family, and boyfriend or girlfriend.

The only places I saw English in Beijing was in the subways, on the busses, in some Western fast-food restaurants, and in my host family’s house. Many times, the numbers are in Chinese and for the descriptions for items and food. KFC is Beijing was completely in Chinese.

Do not go over to China thinking that you’ll make it by only knowing English. I suggest learning the bare minimum like how to say “hello” and “goodbye”. The locals will welcome you and be excited to know that you have tried to learn some of their language.

Number 3: Are You in China to Learn or Party?

I must warn people about the nightlife in Beijing. I’m not sure if partying is as common in other Chinese cities with foreigners as it is in Beijing, but please be aware of the risks.
Some streets are known for drinking. 

There are 30 million more men in China than women. Part of this is because of the one-child policy. Many families wanted the boys because they would pass on the family name. This has changed with time.

In Eastern Beijing, in San Li Tun, drinking and partying is known. This was the first place I was invited to when I arrived. I politely declined and explained I didn’t drink alcohol. I was lucky, the people who invited me weren’t offended by me saying no to their invitation. This may not be the case for all people. It is seen as impolite to refuse a cigarette from an older individual and to decline food and drink. This includes alcohol.

Also, many Chinese men are at tourist hotspots for drinking, partying, and clubbing looking for hookups and girlfriends. Be aware that you may be approached by Chinese men who will pay for your alcohol and want to start a conversation. Please be responsible and never go to these places, regardless if you are male or female, by yourself.

There are a lot of police crackdowns at these places and I suggest you have your visa and passport on you just in case the bar you are at is raided. If you’re in China to study, stay away from the bars. You’re better off hanging out with your new friends at an expensive restaurant than possibly spending a night in jail for obnoxious behavior. You could be deported, and Americans are known to be heavy drinkers and to do things that are not appropriate. Be responsible.

Number 4: Are You in China Looking for Your Soulmate?

As stated above, there is a significant surplus of men in China. If you’re in China for love, be aware of what you say when you meet the opposite sex. Chinese men will approach you and ask if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It may be one of the first things they ask you.

Never say that you are “open-minded”. This means that you are open to casual sex. Yes, sex! If this isn’t what you mean, don’t say it. Instead, say, “I’m looking for a meaningful relationship.”

Number 5: Are You Ready for the Time Change?

Beijing is thirteen hours ahead of Central Time. I had to learn to switch my day and night. It was easier for me because I’m a night owl back home and I decided to stay awake the entire time I was traveling (over twenty-four hours) so I would be tired when I arrived.

If you struggle with sleeping, China may not be the place to go. Meal times are significantly different from the United States of America. I’m used to eating breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at noon, and supper at 5 p.m. When I was in Beijing, I ate breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at 2 p.m., and supper at 7 or 8 p.m. Lunches were usually only small sandwiches or snacks. The real meal came at night.

If you make any friends while in China, this may be the norm. I ate snacks all the time.

Conclusion

You may have noticed that I didn’t give a direct reason why you shouldn’t visit China. I instead shared practical issues that may make you uncomfortable when you arrive.

Are you ready for the culture shock? If not, research how to overcome culture shock before you arrive by visiting this website.

Do you speak some Chinese? If not, start practicing with Chinese Skill, a free app that has interactive ways to learn Chinese. The app has visuals, opportunities to write Chinese phonetically, to practice the tones, and so much more.

Are you in China to party? If so, be aware of the risks. Starting a bar fight will not help you become welcomed by the Chinese community. You may be deported and spend some time in a Chinese jail.

Are you looking for a relationship? If so, don’t think that dating is like what you’re used to. Before you step into this part of your life, research how marriage and relationships work in China by visiting this website.

Are you ready for the time change? If not, start training your body by staying up later at night and sleeping in longer in the morning. This will help with the initial shock.
 
I had an amazing time in Beijing, So can you!

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Monday, August 20, 2018

The Reality of China's Internet Censorship

I live for the internet. I’m not alone in this way of life as most of my friends, instructors, and co-workers cannot live without the internet. Almost everything is done from a computer, smartphone, and tablet. I see more kids running to the computer than I do see who read a book.

When we have a question, we Google it. When we go on adventures, we post or tweet to Facebook and Twitter. When we are frustrated, we go to forums. Medical questions? Reddit or the handy dandy Google.

Regardless of if you are a Google, Yahoo, or Bing fan, these search engines have made our lives easier. Instead of researching in a library, sifting through countless numbers of books and then trying to find the answer, we can easily type in the question and have a detailed answer within seconds.

The world has changed since the invention of the computer and then the internet. For better or for worse, our society lives a technological world. I wonder, sometimes, what this world would be like if the internet or all electronic devices stopped working. I wonder how Americans would react if nearly 70% of all popular websites were taken down and there was no way to access them. I wonder how America would run with censorship laws taking away information centers and replacing them with state-run propaganda. I wonder …

Life in the Countryside of Northeast Wisconsin

As an entrepreneur who lives and was raised in Northeast Wisconsin, I’ve had a pretty uneventful upbringing. I live in the country where I see more cattle than humans and I am surrounded by cornfields and hay fields instead of mountains of concrete.
 
I learned to deal without the necessities of people who lived in town had. If I wanted to go to the store, any store, I would need to drive for fifteen minutes. If I wanted to watch a movie, I needed to strap myself in for at least a thirty-minute ride. Instead of driving everywhere in the country, I biked to my destinations. If the power went out, my dad would light every candle in the house and illuminate the dark skies.

There were more times where I watched Caveman TV than the actual TV. What is Caveman TV? Go outside at night and sit and watch the stars. Every hour-in-a-half, a mysterious shining light, that looks like a star, will scurry across the sky. That light is the International Space Station. This is my TV.

By the time I was old enough to use the internet, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to use it like everyone else. The internet is notoriously slow where I live. Loading my email can sometimes take twenty minutes and posting on Facebook or any social media site can sometimes be an impossible task because of the slow upload speed.

Yet, even though the internet is slow, I at least have the internet. I can use my email, check Facebook, tweet on Twitter, binge-watch Netflix shows, investigate YouTube, and pin on Pinterest. I have it good considering what Chinese citizens must deal with.

The China Situation

As an entrepreneur, I utilize Google. My website is a Google Blogger. I purchased a URL from Google. My email is a Google service. Google slide and docs are my best friends.

Facebook dominates my life, even if I don’t like it, as I religiously check in almost daily. My first business page on social media was on Facebook and later LinkedIn.

Twitter makes me happy when I see my favorite singers and artists post updates. I tweet new blog posts and advertise my tutoring business on Twitter.

Pinterest is my go-to for pinning my blog posts and business ideas. I partner or collaborate with other Pinterest Boards like mine to help boost views.

There is a problem, though. Every one of these services I use to run my business and share updates with clients, parents, and friends are blocked in China.

Google—Blocked.
Facebook—Blocked.
Twitter—Blocked.
Pinterest—Blocked.
Bing—Unblocked?

My go-to search engine while in China was Bing. The only difference was that I was only allowed to access the Chinese version of the search engine. If I typed in certain keywords, I was only given websites that have been approved and most likely created by the Chinese government.

There were a few websites I used a home that was unblocked in China. Archive of Our Own loaded as fast as it does in America and The Wealthy Accountant blog was completely open beside any Google ads that may have been placed on certain pages. Wikipedia was unblocked and so was most forums that weren’t Google.

Alternatives

I had purchased a VPN for my computer before I arrived. I thought I would be all set, but I quickly learned that not all VPNs work. The Chinese government allows VPNs and has authority to block them whenever they see fit. That is what happened to me five days into my trip. The VPN I purchased worked in the beginning but was quickly taken down after the Chinese government cracked down on many VPNs.

Though, there are alternatives. Instead of using Google, I used Bing and allowed my computer to translate the pages I wished to access. The search engine, Baidu (which is more than a search engine), became my best friend. Baidu also has features to call a taxi, GPS, nearby restaurants, and bus routes. Youku, Chinese YouTube, was also a viable alternative for video streaming. My all-time favorite app was WeChat.

WeChat is the alternative to Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. WeChat was the way I communicated with my parents when I was in Beijing and it was FREE! The app has voice recording features, video recording features, texting capabilities, video and photo sharing capabilities, and so much more. I utilize WeChat today. My PenPal and host family contact me every week on the app.

Conclusion

It was difficult, especially in the beginning, to deal with the censorship in China. Yet, the less I was able to access stopped me from spending extended periods of time scrolling through Facebook posts, watching YouTube videos, tweeting, and pinning.

I was more productive in China. I got what I needed to get done on my computer and then was able to be productive for the rest of the day. I paid less attention to other people and their lives online and worried about myself and the people around me.

I’m not saying that I didn’t complain in the beginning or ever wonder what I was going to do with myself without Google, my email, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I was still able to access YouTube with a VPN I had on my phone. Dora, my host sister, loved it when I played the lyrics videos for Good Time by Owl City and Hey Brother by Avicii on YouTube.

I wasn’t alone. When the reality finally set in that I was no longer on American soil, I adjusted. I stopped feeling the need to post on Facebook, to tweet on Twitter, and to pin on Pinterest. The hardest thing to overcome was not being able to use my email, but I found a way around that, too. I didn’t need to use my email if I had WeChat. I was in good hands and had nothing to worry about.

Chinese censorship is extreme. Many of the websites we use like Facebook and Google are blocked. I can understand why the Chinese government does this. Without going into politics or the stories about corruption, I can see why the Chinese government wants the citizens in China to use Chinese services and products. This helps their economy.


Have you visited China? And have you dealt with some of these struggles? Have you ever used WeChat? Leave your comments below, like, and please share this post with friends and family.